A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 1

Society and Religion in Central Asia Minor in the Time of St. Paul

Chapter 19

Pisidian Antioch

ON a hill about one and a half miles east from the modern town of Yalowatch, on the outermost slopes of the lofty massive ridge of Sultan-Dagh, the backbone of Phrygia, was an ancient sanctuary of the Phrygian religion, which was the ruling priestly centre for the whole uplands north-east from the Limnai, and for the plain of the Anthios, which flows into the southern basin of the Limnai, the great double lake now called Hoiran-Geul and Egerdir-Geul. On the upper waters of the Anthios stood that ancient sanctuary, from whence the Phrygian priests, interpreting the Divine will, ruled the country and the rude Phrygian population around. Antioch is about 3600 feet above sea-level, Yalowatch 3460, the Limnai 3030.

Strabo describes the geographical features of the country on the side flanks of Sultan-Dagh. He had seen it as he travelled westwards along the great trade route through Tyriaion and Philomelion; and the enormous mass of that long ridge impressed his memory and is well described by the phrase which he uses, “a backbone of mountains”.1 He errs, however, in saying that it stretched from east to west: it really stretches south-east to north-west. This error was not unnatural in a traveller whose route was from east to west, and who did not properly realise how much his course turned towards the north at Philomelion in order to get round the end of the mighty mountain.

Strabo saw only the great plain on the north-east side of the mountain backbone, the long level stretch of Phrygia Paroreios. He was told that on the opposite side of the ridge lay Antioch in another plain; and he pictured to himself the plain which Antioch commanded as similar to the plain that he saw before him. But in this also he was not strictly correct: the country that stretches in front of Antioch, as one looks down towards the Limnai, is of far rougher character, rolling uplands backed by mountains.

The ancient name of that Phrygian sanctuary is unknown. A new era began in its history when a Greek garrison city was planted there on the lands of the temple.

Antioch was called by the Romans a Pisidian city; and in Latin usage the name Pisidia was applied almost in a political sense to the country in which Augustus founded his Coloniae for defence against the Pisidian mountaineers.2 So in later times Antioch became the capital of the Province Pisidia.

But the old national idea and the geographical view agreed that Antioch was a Phrygian city, in the district called Pisidian or Pisidic Phrygia, bordering on Pisidia proper.3 Strabo puts this quite clearly; and in an epigram found in the city, it is called Mygdonian, i.e., Phrygian, for Mygdon was one of the old Phrygian heroes mentioned in the Iliad.4 The first line of the epigram,5  which has not been properly understood, is to be read thus: —

τόνδε σε Μυγδονίν Διονύσιον Ἀν[τιόχεια].

The accompanying prose inscription states that the metropolis Antioch honoured with a statue Aur. Dionysios, a centurion charged with the oversight of the region which had its centre in Antioch. In the mutilated epigram the city addresses him: “Thee, Dionysios standing here (in marble), Phrygian Antioch (has exalted in honour)”.

Antioch was founded by one of the Seleucid kings who ruled Syria and the southern half of Asia Minor. Of the date and circumstances nothing is recorded; but the strong and important position is likely to have attracted the attention of the first monarch Seleucus Nicator, B.C. 301-280. This may probably have been one of the sixteen Antiochs which he founded and named after his father.

The population of the new city consisted, doubtless, partly of the old people, who may have probably constituted one or more of its tribes,6 and partly of settlers planted here by the founder. The settlers must have constituted several of the city tribes; but nothing is recorded as to their former homes, or as to the names and number of the tribes. The refoundation as a Roman Colonia has obliterated the memory of the Greek city.

Analogy may make us confident that the most honoured tribe was called Antiochis, and probably contained Macedonian settlers only:7 so at Laodiceia there was a tribe Laodikis, and at Carian Antioch a tribe Antiochis.

It is practically certain that part of the new settlers were Jews: see Section 18. The Jews of Antioch may very probably have formed one of the city tribes.

Another tribe may have taken a name from the Phrygian cultus in the city, and contained the old population.

While the city Antioch was thus a thoroughly Hellenised city, Greek-speaking, organised in the regular Hellenistic style, and administering by its own elected magistrates the usual style of Hellenistic Seleucid law, the country round continued its Phrygian course of life, hardly affected by the Greek city, divided according to villages on the Anatolian system,8 and probably for a long time speaking only Phrygian. A great series of inscriptions, belonging to the middle of the third century after Christ, shows that this country, within a few miles of Antioch to the north-west and subject to its authority, still preserved much of the old Phrygian religious organisation, uniting under the patronage of the Great Artemis in a society, whose enigmatic name probably means “the friends of the secret sign,” a sort of body of freemasons recognising one another by a sign.9 There seems even then to have been little relation between these rustics or pagani and the men of the city; all the “friends” (hundreds in number) are designated by their village, with the exception of one solitary Antiochian.

It is important to observe that those un-Hellenised pagani were still really Pagans in the third century. Christianity had here hardly affected the rustic population, and was confined to the educated citizens.

Antioch boasted it-self as a colony from Magnesia on the Maeander. The meaning of this statement is uncertain. It was fashionable in the Hellenised Phrygian cities to have foundation legends involving some Greek connection; but these are as a rule far from trustworthy. In this case, however, the assertion of Strabo lends strength to the story; and possibly a body of settlers from Magnesia may have been brought by the Seleucid founder; if so, they would probably form one of the city tribes, which might bear a name suggestive of the origin.10 Certainly the story of the Magnesian colony was current in the city, as appears from an epigram found in Rome, which has been much misrepresented by editors. The writer of this epigram calls himself a Magnesian of Phrygia. Clearly he must mean Antioch, for he speaks of the Anthian Plain, i.e., the valley of the Anthios, mentioned on coins of the city and in Pliny.

Μάγνης ἐκ Φρυγίης· Σκυθίη δέ με παρθένος Αἴπη

ἔτρεφʼ ἐλαιηρῶι μʼ Ἀνθίωι ἐν πεδίωι,

παλίσκιον λιπόντα Μαγνήτων πόλιν. 11

“I am a Magnesian from Phrygia; and an unwedded damsel, devoted to the service of the Scythian goddess, nurtured me in the olive-bearing plain of the Anthios, me who have left the deep-shaded city of the Magnetes.” It is uncertain whether the epigram was longer.

The Anatolian custom described on p. 40 is here alluded to. Evidently the epithet Parthenos was given to the goddess in this district: she was the Great Goddess Artemis of the Limnai, into which the river Anthius flows; and she was succeeded there in Christian times by the Virgin Theotokos. The epithet Parthenos in the cultus of Anatolia had not the sense which we attribute to the word “virgin”: it merely indicated that the goddess and her devotees were not bound by the rite of marriage. She is termed “Scythian,” as the Artemis whose seat was in the Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea); she was also called Tauro or Tauropolos.12

The character which this epigram reveals in the Antiochian cultus is exactly what belonged everywhere to the native religion of Phrygia; but it is important to have an express confirmation of it.

In the exoteric view, as shown in inscriptions, the Great God in Antioch was Men Askainos,13 who was usually expressed in Greek form as the “Very Manifest God Dionysos,” and in Latin as Aesculapius. These identifications with Western deities express one or other of the many sides in the complete Phrygian idea of the God, as the giver of wine and corn, the king, the healer, and so on. The simple translation of the Phrygian name, viz., Men in Greek and Luna in Latin, was also used in the inscriptions.14

The goddess is never mentioned in inscriptions of the Hellenised city, where the Phrygian element remained more mystic and esoteric, as is stated on p. 42. But in inscriptions of the less Hellenised neighbourhood, she alone is named, and the male god is not made so prominent.

The first event known in the history of Antioch belongs to the year 189, when the Romans made it a free city, destroying the Seleucid power, but not subjecting the city to the rule of the Pergamenian king Eumenes. Possibly, their jealousy made them unwilling15 to trust him with that strong fortress and the command of one of the two great Eastern routes.

From 189 to the formation of the Province of Cilicia in 80, nothing is known as to the fate of Antioch. Sheltered behind the mountains, it was protected as well as possible against the storms of that troubled time. Presumably it remained a free city for that whole century, a city governing itself by its own elected magistrates in the midst of a Phrygian land, governing itself after the Greek fashion, and called a Greek city, but by no means a city of Greeks. Its story during that century would be an interesting one; but we must wait for further exploration and excavation.

In 39 Antioch and the rest of Pisidian Phrygia was made into a kingdom and given to Amyntas; and in 25 it came back into Roman possession as part of the Province Galatia.

At some time before B.C. 6 Augustus planted a Colonia — apparently chiefly, or entirely, of veterans of the Legion V Alauda — in Antioch, which now received a new constitution and a new name, as Colonia Caesareia Antiocheia. The population of the old Greek city still continued to dwell in it; but they now ranked only as dwellers (incolae) alongside of the privileged Coloni.

Instead of tribes, the Colonia was divided into Vici, as a Roman city. The modern town of Yalowatch is divided into twelve quarters, and Professor Sterrett conjectures, ingeniously and probably, that the division is an inheritance from antiquity.16 It may be added that the supposed twelve Vici were probably a Romanisation of the older twelve Greek city tribes.

The names of only six Vici are known, Tuscus, Cermalus, Aedilicius, Patricius17 Velabrus, Salutaris. The last of these is probably an acknowledgment of the old Phrygian cultus in Antioch, for the national God was now commonly called Aesculapius. The other names show a strongly marked Roman character.

Certain rights, summed up as Jus Italicum, were granted to the Colonia, which consisted mainly of veterans of the Fifth Legion Alauda. Those rights — which included freedom from direct taxation, freedom of constitutional government, and the right to hold and convey land according to Roman custom — of course, belonged in full only to the coloni, and not to the incolae, the old inhabitants, who still constituted the vast majority of the population. Only persons who possessed as individuals the Roman citizenship could rank as Coloni, and possess the full rights pertaining to that position.

No evidence remains on which to found an account of the precise position and rights of the non-Roman population of Antioch. We must for the present remain in ignorance, and hope for increase of knowledge through exploration and excavation. But some general principles are certain.

In a general way, the non-Roman members of the Province were in a state, so to say, of pupilage and training for the high position of Roman citizens. The goal of the Empire was universal citizenship among freemen; but for the time this was still distant, and the path of advancement was open only to the few. In a Colonia, the non-Roman population was indubitably in a much more favourable position as regards Roman rights than in the mere Greek cities. They had a certain secondary class of rights (including, most probably, freedom from direct taxes); and the path towards the full position of a civis Romanus was easier for them.

This favoured and honourable position belonged to those Greek incolae in virtue of the Roman Colonial rank of their city. As members of the Roman Empire, i.e., of the Province Galatia, they ranked above all the mere Greek cities around, except their sister colonies, among whom they were primi inter pares.18 Now in view of the intense spirit of rivalry and jealousy between city and city, which was so marked a feature of Asia Minor municipal life,19  the citizens would, of course, pride thernselves especially on those features which gave them their rank: they would be good and enthusiastically loyal Roman citizens. The account of Antioch given in the Acta of Paul and Thekla, with its high priest and its great shows to which crowds from the other cities of Galatia came, is instructive.20

In view of these circumstances it is an important fact that, in Acts, the Gentiles who came to the Antiochian synagogue, “the believing proselytes,” Act 13:43, are not called Greeks, as they are at cities of the Greek type like Iconium, Ephesus, etc. This name of Greek would be unsuitable in a Roman Colonia, among men who were proud of their rank. That is one of the slight instances of exactness in expression, hardly noticeable except under the microscope, as it were, which make up the fabric of Luke’s History.

And yet the North Galatian Theorists maintain that these Antiochians would have preferred to be called “Phrygians” rather than “men of the Province Galatia”. A horse, or a slave, was called “Phryx,” not men who prided themselves on being some steps nearer the Roman citizenship than their merely Greek neighbours.

The process of acquiring the Roman citizenship evidently went on rapidly during the first century. It appears probable that practically the entire free population had acquired the Roman rights before the middle of the second century, otherwise we should find more inscriptions containing names of the Greek type. Almost every man who is mentioned has the three names of the Roman citizen; and the freedmen who occur have the standing and the three names of Roman libertini. Probably, when Hadrian made Iconium a Colonia, 117-138, Antioch was already a body of Roman cives.

In the obscurity as to the exact position of the older inhabitants in the Colonia, it is impossible to be certain as to the law of family and inheritance among them. Though the Roman Coloni, all doubtless Western born, whom Augustus settled there, would preserve the principles and forms of Roman law, it is entirely improbable that the older inhabitants, already in possession of a settled and developed legal system, were called upon to adopt a new and strange system. It was not Roman method to destroy an existing civilisation. One who was not a Roman citizen was not even privileged to make a will of the Roman type: he must follow hereditary and national custom. In the gradual assimilation of law in the East, it would appear that Greek law proved too strongly established, and that it was not thoroughly Romanised for centuries, if at all. The influence of the general atmosphere and intercourse in Asia Minor was strong enough to Hellenise even Celtic-Roman Galatia: much more was it able to preserve in Colonia Antiocheia the existing type of Hellenic society, even though the forms of municipal government were Roman.

Even in municipal government the inscriptions show some traces of Greek forms, while in regard to social circumstances and amusements many traces of the Greek spirit are seen.

The government of Colonia Antiocheia was of the usual Roman type. The inscriptions mention Duoviri Quinquennales, Duoviri, Quaestores, Ędiles: a senate called Ordo, whose members were styled Decuriones: the Ordo et Populus concurring in the compliment to a citizen: the Populus signifying its will by acclamation in the theatre, and carrying its will into effect separately in each Vicis. There was a priesthood of Jupiter Optimus Maximus; and perhaps a municipal High priesthood in the Imperial religion.21

But there are also traces of the Greek style of municipal government creeping into that Roman organisation. The office of Grammateus, so important in the Hellenistic cities of the East,22 is mentioned as an Antiochian office between the Quaestorship and the Duumvirate. The title of Agonotheta perpetuus of the quinquennial games is more Greek than Latin.23

There can be no doubt that the ordinary language of society was Greek, and not Latin. Greek was the language of trade and of education. It was only pride in their Roman rank that led to the exclusive use of Latin in inscriptions during the first century, and its frequent use in the second century. Similarly Colonia Lystra used the Latinised form Lustra during the first century.

Two bilingual epitaphs show that the families of Roman Coloni found it advisable to learn Greek; and a number of Greek inscriptions, some of persons with Greek names, some with Roman names, some actually erected by Roman citizens in honour of Roman citizens, point to the same fact. The third century inscriptions and those of late date are usually and almost exclusively Greek: even high Roman imperial officials write in Greek and are honoured in Greek. Instead of Colonia Antiocheia, the pure Greek style “metropolis of the Antiochians” became common; and there is even a Greek inscription in which the Boule honours Secundus on the occasion of his having filled the office of Strategos, where the pure Greek terms are used in place of Ordo and Duumvir.

The games which are mentioned are of the Greek rather than the Roman bloody character: a certamen gymnicum, and a certamen quinquennale talantiaeum. Rut these belong to the second or even the third century.24 The Acta of Paul and Thekla attest in the first century a more Roman type of sports, gladiators and combats with beasts, showing that the Roman spirit was stronger then and grew afterwards weaker.

Antioch was not merely the metropolis of all Southern Galatia. It was also, in a special sense, the centre of a Regio, over which a Roman centurion had certain duties.25 That Regio was the Phrygian district attached to Galatia, called Pisidian Phrygia or Galatic Phrygia26 — the former title geographical, the latter political. It is called by the Greek title χώρα. Act 13:49 : during Paul’s residence in Antioch, the entire Regio heard of the new faith. Antioch was a centre of evangelic influence for the whole Regio, just as Ephesus was for the whole Province of which it was centre, Act 19:10. That Regio is afterwards defined more precisely as the “region which was called Phrygian (geographically) and Galatic (politically),” Act 16:6, or, as the antithesis might be put, “Phrygian (by the Greeks) and Galatic (by the Roman government)”. More briefly it is summed up as “the Phrygian region” in Act 18:23, where some prefer to take Phrygia as a noun (making, however, no difference to the sense).

It is not at present possible to feel certainty whether or not Antioch remained part of the Province Galatia down to the provincial reorganisation by Diocletian about 295. 27 The Pisidian martyrs Marcus, Alphius and others under Diocletian are said to have been of the city Antioch, belonging to the region of Galatic Phrygia:28 the term Regio is important and indicates a good ultimate authority, as we have already seen.

There are several other good features in the account: the village Kalytos or Katalytos, where the martyrs were blacksmiths: the calling in of bronze-workers (χαλκοτύποι): perhaps the mention of Claudiopolis as a Pisidian city, a corruption of Claudioseleuceia. The account is late and corrupt: the original Acta probably described martyrs from several Pisidian towns, who were tried before the governor of Galatia at Antioch during a progress through his Province. If that occurred under Diocletian, it would be established that Antioch was part of Galatia under his reign; but the Emperor’s name is far from trustworthy; that detail was incorrectly added in late versions of many Acta; and in this case the probability is that it is a mere guess of a late redactor, and did not occur in the original Acta.

We thus conclude that the facts are as a whole true; but the date is probably false, being later than the truth.

Ptolemy mentions Antioch both as a city of Galatia and as a city of the Province Pamphylia and district Pisidian Phrygia. That suggests the mixing up of an earlier classification to Galatia, and a later (true in his time) to Pamphylia; but it may be a mere blunder. At least it is certain that Antioch was classed to Galatia as late as the end of Trajan’s reign.

Aelian mentions a kind of partridge (Συροπέρδιξ), small, very wild, black in colour, with red beak, the flesh well tasted, at Antioch of Pisidia: it ate stones (Hist. Anim., XVI 7).

We should be glad to know in what relation the old sanctuary stood to the Colonia. The great estates which once belonged to the temple are not likely to have been left undisturbed by Greek kings or by the Greek autonomous government. In some similar cases there is evidence to show that part or the whole of the vast temple properties in Asia Minor had become imperial estates.29 In the case of Antioch, it is probable that land for the Coloni was found, not by depriving the older population of their property, but by presenting temple lands to the Colonia.

This theory explains, and is confirmed by, the evidence of Strabo, who states that the temple formerly possessed much sacred land and a large body of temple slaves, but its temporal power and wealth were put down after Amyntas died. Such is the probable meaning of his expression:30 the temple itself was not put down, for the hereditary god Men and his priests for life are often mentioned in inscriptions.

But there must have been certain property connected with the temple, the management of which was entrusted to an officer called “Curator of the Sanctuary Chest”:31 it is highly probable that the Colonia was charged with the maintenance of the temple out of the revenues of the property, which once had belonged to the temple and had been presented by Augustus to the Colonia.

The circumstances of Antioch suggest that the temple stood in relations to the city similar to those that existed in Ephesus. The strength of the Asiatic spirit was always connected with the temple; and the temple had considerable influence even while the Romanising spirit was most vigorous.

A festival called Apollo’s Birth,32 mentioned at Pisidian Antioch, must certainly be understood as a festival of Men. The story of the birth of the god was among the great mysteries of the religion, as acted before the initiated. The mystic ceremonies were everywhere associated with a public festival.

No sure trace of the Jewish element can be detected in inscriptions. The Antiochian Jews had apparently disused Hebrew names completely (at least in public); but it is not impossible that some of the characteristic Antiochian names, such as Anicius, Caristanius, may hide Jews of high rank.

Few Christian inscriptions at Antioch are known. But in the great cities, where Roman officials were numerous, it was always expedient for the Christians to make little public show, and to draw as little attention on themselves as possible.33

One ends with the phrase “he shall have to reckon with the might of God”; another with “thou shalt not wrong God”; two others with “he shall have to reckon with God”. These classes of inscriptions are more fully described elsewhere.34 An epigram uses the expression ἀθανάτου ψυχῆς, which seems of Christian type.35

Le Quien mentions as bishops of Antioch (1) Eudoxius about 290-300, (2) Optatus, (3) Anthimos, and (4) Cyprianus.

Of these Eudoxius is probably historical, for the account given in a Greek menology under 23rd June seems taken from a trustworthy source: in it Eustochius of Ousada (i.e., Vasada), a Pagan priest, seeks baptism from Eudoxius of Antioch; and afterwards goes to Lystra, where he has relatives; finally he is sent for trial to Ancyra and condemned. There is so much correct detail in the story, that a presumption is created in its favour.

But Optatus, Anthimos and Cyprianus, though accepted by Le Quien and the Bollandists (26th Sept., VII, p. 189 f), have little claim to be historical, much less to be classed to Pisidian Antioch. The Acta of Justina, in which they are mentioned, is a document of poor character; and Syrian Antioch is mentioned as the city of Justina by many authorities.

In 314 Sergianos represented Antioch at the Council of Ancyra, and in 325 Antonius at Nicaea.

A city Antioch is mentioned very often in the ancient Syrian Martyrology, but the presumption is that Syrian Antioch is meant.

Apollonia, the city most closely connected with Antioch, and like it classed to Pisidian Phrygia, is said to have had Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, as its evangelist and first bishop; see Acta Sanctorum, 21st June, V, p. 58; and not far south of Apollonia, the church of Seleuceia is said to have had a first century origin with Artemon as first bishop (27th March).

Eighteen bishoprics of the Province Pisidia are recorded in or before the fourth century. Six36 more are added in later records, mostly in the mountainous and least civilised parts of Pisidia.


[1] Strabo, p. 577, ὀρεινήν τινα ῥάχιν. On his route compare Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, pp. 86, 170; II, p. 398.

[2] Monum. Ancyr., V 36; Pliny, V 94.

[3] See p. 106.

[4] See pp. 20, 27. A reference to Mygdonia Antiocheia Nisibis is impossible.

[5] Sterrett, Epigr. Journey, No. 93 (but keep the reading on the stone ῥεγεωνάριον).

[6] All these Greek cities in Phrygia were divided into tribes, φυλαί.

[7] If Seleucus was the founder, another tribe doubtless was called Seleucis.

[8] See p. 39 f.

[9] τέκμωρ: ξένοι τεκμόρειοι. On these religious societies see Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, p. 96 f, II, pp. 359, 630, f; the inscriptions in Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition; also Histor. Geogr. of Asia Minor, p. 411 ff.

[10] If the story relates to a mythic foundation in prehistoric times, it may be dismissed as an invention.

[11] Kaibel, Inscr. Grace. Ital., No. 933, reads Μανθίωι in l. 2. Παρθένος ἁγνή has been conjectured, probably rightly, but Kaibel rejects it because he has not found Scythia as a woman’s name (a meaningless reason). He takes Magnes as a personal name, and gets no sense from this remarkable inscription.

[12] Artemis Tauropolos at Metropolis, not far away.

[13] Such is Waddington’s highly probable correction of Strabo’s reading Arkaios.

[14] C. I. L., III 6829, Sterrett, Epigr. Journ., No. 135. These are really mistranslations: the Phrygian Men or Manes was not the Moon, Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, II, p. 636.

[15] See above, p. 61.

[16] Turkish mahale translates vicus.

[17] PATRICVS in Sterrett’s copy.

[18] See p. 224.

[19] See below, p. 450 f.

[20] Church in the Rom. Emp., p. 396 ff.

[21] Compare C. I. L., III 6820, with the Acta of Paul and Thekla (see the Church in the Roman Empire, p. 396 f.

[22] St. Paul the Trav., p. 281.

[23] ἀγωνοθέτης διὰ βίου.

[24] Compare also Le Bas and Waddington, No. 1620a.

[25] Inscription mentioned on p. 199.

[26] Opposed to Asiana Phrygia, Galen, vol. VI, p. 515, Kuhn.

[27] See p. 177 f.

[28] Menolog. Sirletianum quoted in Acta Sanctorum, 28th Sept., p. 563: sub. Diocletiano Imp. in urbe Antiochiae Pisidiae ex regione Phrygiae Galaticae (wrongly Galaciae) sub praeside Magna.

[29] Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, p. 11.

[30] κατελύθη.

[31] Curator Arcę Sanctuariae.

[32] Γενέθλια Ἀπόλλωνος, Acta SS. Trophimi, etc., 19th Sept., p. 12.

[33] Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, II, p. 711.

[34] Op. cit., II, ch. XII.

[35] See Sterrett, Epigr. Journ., 138, 142, 143; C. I. G., 3980.

[36] Bindaion is probably only another name for Eudoxiopolis, Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, p. 326. Le Quien distinguishes them, and makes seven late bishoprics.

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